Weeks 311-320

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 311: Even the Demons Believe: A Reflection on Mark 3:11

“And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God,’ but he warned them sternly not to make him known.” Mark 3:11

Have you ever wondered why demons always shout Jesus identity?  From the demons' perspective it would seem counterproductive.  Even more curious is why Jesus always tells them to shut up when they do?  Demons identify Jesus primarily because they have to.  It’s part of their torment.  Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “At the name of Jesus every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and UNDER THE EARTH,” (meaning hell),  “and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father, Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2:10).

In very old statues of Saint Michael the archangel, there’s a chain around satan’s neck, which Saint Michael is pulling back on, forcing the devil to look up.  Why?  Because part of his punishment, part of his torment, is forcing him to look at what he no longer a part of, to see what he has lost.  Also when a demon is the presence of God, that demon MUST speak the truth, even if it is against his will.  A demon cannot lie in the presence of Him who is truth itself.

So when demons come in the presence of Jesus, the Word of truth, they also must speak the truth. When someone is possessed by a demon, there is a point in the exorcism when the priest can question the demon and the demon MUST answer truthfully, because an exorcism simply renews the sanctifying Grace of Baptism, and since the Lord is physically present in all seven sacraments, when that Grace is being renewed and Christ is present, the demon must answer truthfully.

Now, why would Jesus tell the demon to shut up?  Wouldn’t it give Jesus some serious street credibility to say, “See that?  Even the demons know who I am!”  First of all, Jesus does not want, nor does he need, any endorsements from evil.  Remember the controversy when the KKK endorsed Donald Trump for president?  Donald Trump isn’t a member of the KKK, or even affiliated with the KKK, but because he didn’t publicly reject the endorsement, it didn’t look good.

Remember when the Chinese government donated a large sum of money to the Clinton Campaign? Technically, Hillary Clinton didn’t do anything wrong in accepting that money, but again, it didn’t look good.  The same thing is going on here.  If Jesus DOESN’T silence these demons, it’s not going to look good.  Remember the accusation the Scribes bring against Jesus later in the gospel, “He casts out demons by the power of the prince of demons"?  If Jesus accepts the endorsement of demons, it lends credibility to that accusation.

So what does this mean to us?  Simple.  Have nothing to do with evil.  Don’t flirt with the devil.  Don’t try to dance on the border of sin and virtue.  Christians are very good at finding loopholes to allow themselves to go right to the brink of sin, and then try to stop.  The problem is sometimes we can’t stop before we cross into sin.  Or, because we play this game and the people around us notice, it’s perceived as us being insincere in our faith, and we lose moral credibility when we try to stand up for the truth.  So it robs us of being effective witnesses for Christ.

Make no mistake my brothers and sisters, the devil hates us with every fiber of his existence.  Don’t give him anything that he could use to establish a grip on your soul, because believe me, he will use anything he can to rob you of your heavenly inheritance.

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote From a Saint:  "The devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labours to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession." --St. Alphonsus Liguori

Prayer From a Saint:
"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou,  O Prince of the Heavenly Host – by the Power of God cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits who roam 
throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.  -- Pope Leo XIII

Questions for Reflection:


1. According to Father, what is the reason that the demons identified Jesus?


2. Why do the demons  speak the truth when in the presence of Jesus?


3. Do you give much thought to the devil?  Are you consciously aware that there is a spiritual battle going on for your soul?  Discuss.


4. What does Father mean by "flirting with the devil"?  Do you think you have ever done this?  Name several examples of "flirting with the devil".


5. Father says that we should not give the devil anything that he could use to establish a grip on our soul.  Compare this statement with the quote by Saint Liguori above.


6. Father also mentions "dancing on the border of sin and virtue.  What do you think he means by this?  Is there an area in your life where you feel you may be doing this?  Explain.


7. Give an example of a recent temptation that you have experienced in your life.  Were you able to overcome it?  How did you do this?


8. Prayers, such as the prayer above to St. Michael the Archangel, can be effective in combating the evil one.  Do you pray for protection against the devil?  If not, are you willing to incorporate a prayer such as the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel into your daily prayers?


9. Another way to combat the devil is by building virtue in your life.  For example, if you are often tempted with pride, fostering humility in your life can help to combat this sinful tendency.  In what ways might you work to increase virtue in your life?  What virtue or virtues might you build up in your life to combat a temptation that you are experiencing?


10. Scripture teaches us that "Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world". -- I John 4:4.  The devil is a powerful enemy, but Jesus is more powerful.  Again we read, "Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  James 4:7   Discuss what it means to submit to God.  Give some examples of how you might resist the devil. 


--Kimberly Lohman

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 312: “You Are Peter”: A Reflection on the Chair of Saint Peter

 

“ . . .  you are Peter, and on this rock I build my Church . . . “ (Matthew 16:18)

 

Now the last time I preached on the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, I explained how the chair of Peter has nothing to do with the physical chair of Peter in the Vatican in Rome. In fact, that physical chair wasn’t made until the Renaissance. The chair of Peter is a symbol. It’s a symbol of the teaching authority of the Church, and, specifically, the Pope on matters concerning faith and morals.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I get irked with some of my brother priests who bad mouth Pope Francis, because he’s too “liberal” (quote, unquote). First, I’ve always felt the terms liberal and conservative have no place in the Church. Liberal and conservative are political terms, not theological terms. The Church is about truth, and truth is sometimes liberal, and truth is sometimes conservative. Our job is to remain true to the whole truth, not just the bits that fit our politics.

 

But even putting that aside, many of these brother priests I mentioned are the same guys who were trumpeting over and over, while John Paul II, and Benedict were pontiffs, “You gotta follow the Pope! You gotta follow the Pope! The Holy Father is the voice of the Church! We’re supposed to be following the Pope’s lead!” And I agree with all that. And I always have followed the Pope.

 

It all comes down to this; you believe the Holy Spirit guides the Church, or you don’t. You believe the Holy Spirit guides the papacy or you don’t. You believe these words that Jesus spoke to Peter or you don’t.             “…mere flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father, and so I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And what you hold bound on earth will be bound in heaven. And what you hold loosed on earth will be held loosed in heaven.”

 

Francis is the Pope because the Holy Spirit decided he had something worthwhile to teach us. And to me it’s very obvious; his humility, his simplicity, his love for the poor. That’s a wonderful example for us to follow. That doesn’t mean the man is perfect. Who is? And this is another notion that needs to be dispelled. Just because someone is NOT perfect does not mean they don’t have something worthwhile to offer. Look at the lives of the saints. They all had their faults. They all struggled with their humanity, yet they all left valuable examples, because they all aspired to perfection, even though they couldn’t attain perfection.

 

I saw a great meme on Facebook. A cartoon drawing of a hill, and on the hill was the Pope, some clergy, and some laity, and in the ditch below was a sewer, and a drain pipe dumping all kinds of filth in the ditch, feeding a cesspool called “the culture.” And there were people in the cesspool, chest deep in the muck, and one man was calling out to the Church people on the hill, “You know, you’d be a lot more relevant if you’d just come down and join us!”

 

And the point is clear. It’s not the Church’s job to conform to the culture. Our job is to inspire people to aspire to rise above the culture and see something better! Our job is to inspire people to see the value in themselves and in everyone around them! Our job is to inspire people to see everything through the eyes of God. And that is what ALL of this is for; the Church, scripture, the sacraments, the teaching authority of the Pope and Magisterium; it all exist to lead us to that goal.

 

And we have been very blessed, especially since the turn of the last century, beginning with Pope Saint Leo the Great, and continuing to Francis the first, to have had a series of exceptionally holy men pointing our attention upward, and not downward. Holy mean, who have all sat on the chair of Peter.

 

God bless the Church God bless the papacy. And blessed be God forever.

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

It is to Peter himself that He says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church” [Mt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but eternal life. – St. Ambrose of Milan
 

Prayer:

 

Heavenly Father, be pleased to bless and protect our Holy Father, Pope ____________________, whom you have chosen as the successor of St. Peter as the chief minister of unity and charity in the Church. Keep him safe in holiness of life and in wise fulfillment of his awesome responsibilities. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.      Do you pray for the Pope daily? If not, why not start today?

2.      Do you think Peter was the best choice, out of all the apostles, to be their head? What qualities was Jesus looking for, do you suppose?

3.      Discuss the saying, “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” How might  this apply to anyone in leadership in the Church, especially the Pope?

4.      Discuss this insight from Fr. Sisco: The Church is about truth, and truth is sometimes liberal, and truth is sometimes conservative. Our job is to remain true to the whole truth, not just the bits that fit our politics.

5.      Father Sisco says, “It’s not the Church’s job to conform to the culture.” So what is the Church’s job?

6.      How can you help the Church do its job?

7.      Make a list of five responses that you can use if someone maligns the Pope.

8.      Why do you suppose God planned to have one man, the Pope, at the head of the Church?

9.      How might the Church be different if it were run by a committee? By an elected head?  

10.  Discuss this statement from Fr. Sisco: Just because someone is NOT perfect does not mean they don’t have something worthwhile to offer.

11.  List at least 5 worthwhile developments that came from imperfect people.

12.  What are you doing to support the Church? Do you think it’s enough?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 313: Jesus: God's Promise Fulfilled (A Reflection on Mark 3:1-6)

 

"Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, "Come up here before us." Then he said to the Pharisees, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?" But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death." (Mark 3:1-6)

 

“It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so, not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent, but by the power of a life that can not be destroyed.” So writes the author of the letter to the Hebrews. What is he talking about? What makes Melchizedek such a pivotal figure in the Old Testament? Melchizedek is a king and a priest, who offers a sacrifice to God of bread and wine in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory in battle over the pagan kings that united to destroy Abraham and his clan, or at least drive them from the land. In this way Melchizedek is a pre-image of Christ, who is also a priest and a king, who offers to the Father the sacrifice of his own body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine.

 

But also, after this monumental victory, Melchizedek blesses Abraham. Melchizedek imparts the blessing on Abraham that had been given to Adam by God, then to Adam’s son Seth, to Seth’s son Noah, to Noah’s son Shem, and now Abraham. The blessing that was the promise by God to Adam that he would not forsake him. The blessing that promised that God would send a Messiah to save them and restore what was broken. As long as the blessing continued unbroken, God’s promise remained intact. As long as the blessing remained unbroken the covenant remained intact. And with the covenant are God’s blessing, prosperity, healing, and peace.

 

This is why Jesus is so offended by the Pharisees in our Gospel today. They’ve seen Jesus do these good works, these good works that testify He’s from the Father, these good works that are tangible evidence of the covenant. Jesus multiplies the loaves of bread and fish when? After He blesses them. With God’s blessing, we are given an abundance of what we need. We receive God’s prosperity in Jesus’ teaching, which tells us how to acquire the treasure of eternal life which no one can steal from us. We can only surrender it ourselves. Jesus healed scores of people, blind people, deaf people, lame people, lepers. And Jesus gave peace to those tormented by demons and to repentant sinners. Jesus imparts all the fruits of the covenant, as evidence that He is here to fulfill that promise that God made to Adam. The Pharisees should recognize this. Instead, the Pharisees take a man with a withered hand and deliberately put him in front of the synagogue to use his handicap as a means to trap Jesus, so they can accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. That sins against mercy on all levels.

 

The same is true today. Like the Pharisees did to Jesus, people hunt for reasons to accuse the Church, demean the Church, and discredit the Church - because they hate the Church. Granted, the Church, in her human frailty, has given these people plenty of ammunition. I don’t mind that. I don’t mind when people take us to task when we mess up. What offends me is when they ignore the monumental good works the Church does all around the world, every single day, helping untold millions of people, which far outweigh our faults.

 

Don’t let them discourage you. Don’t let them sway you. Christ perfected the sacrifice of Melchizedek, to make us one with him, and enjoy all the fruits of the covenant. Let that truth encourage you if you ever lose heart.

 

And blessed be God forever.

 

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places . . . He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” — St. Paul the Apostle

 

Prayer from a Saint: You chose a people for your own, to lavish love upon, raise up prophets, priests and kings, to be the nation through which the Messiah would be revealed to the world, and through whom your kingdom would come. You chose this people gathered here to be your children, loved and blessed, forgiven through the one who knew no sin, the King of Glory whose crown was made of thorns, and whose name we raise in worship. -- Anonymous

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Who was Melchizedek? Who did he prefigure?

  2.  What was the blessing that Melchizedek gave to Abraham? What was the significance of this blessing?

3. What blessings came to the people of Israel through God's covenant with them?

4. Jesus healed many people during His earthly life. Name some of the types of healings that He performed. Have you ever been healed by Jesus? Has He touched your life in a personal way? Discuss.

5. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand in the synagogue on the sabbath, the Pharisees were incensed and immediately conspired to kill him. What offended Jesus the most about the response of the Pharisees? Why do you think this is so?

6. Many people today seem to look for the bad in the Church and ignore much of the good. Spend some time thinking about/discussing some of the good things that the Church does.

7. Does the negativity about the Church in our current culture ever discourage you? Discuss.

8. Father tells us not to become discouraged or swayed by others because the perfect sacrifice of Jesus brings God's covenant blessings to us. Compare this with the biblical quote by Saint Paul.

9. Do you make a point of talking to others about the good that the Church does? If you hear someone speaking ill of the Church, do you remain silent or speak up? What actions might you take in the coming weeks to help build up the Church?

 

-- Kimberly Lohman

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 314: The Conflict between Job and His Friends

 In the book of Job, we find that there is a big conflict between Job and his friends? Why?

 Job is a man of outstanding moral integrity. He’s also the wealthiest man in his region. Therefore, the devil tries to break him. In a single day, satan destroys all of Job’s wealth, his servants, even his children. But Job, even though he doesn’t understand why, doesn’t curse God.

 Then the devil tries to break Job by giving him this horrible, disfiguring disease. Still, Job doesn’t break.

Then Job’s three friends from another nation hear of his misfortunes and come to try comfort him. In their discourse, they try to figure out why Job has suffered this. The friends are convinced that Job has done something to offend God. They try to figure out what it is.

Job keeps on reassuring them that he’s innocent. Then they start to badger him. “Oh, so you’re without sin, right?” And Job says that, of course, he’s sinned, but he certainly hasn’t done anything this bad. Then the friends try a new tactic. They say, “OK, OK, maybe you are innocent, but just pretend to repent of some wrong doing, and maybe God will restore what He’s taken from you.”

 Now this dialogue reveals something about these friends.

 First it shows that they’re self righteous. They are so bent on condemning Job for something.

Second, it shows they’re hypocritical. These men, who pretend to be so pious, treat God as something to be humored or patronized, as demonstrated by their suggestion of offering insincere contrition.

It also demonstrates something else. It shows that they’re more interested in promoting their own views, than they are in the pursuit of truth, particularly, true knowledge of God.

This is where they break from Job. All of them are questioning, but only Job is questioning to find the truth. As this dialogue between the four of them is wrapping up, Job says to them, in heart wrenching words, “Pity me, O you my friends! Look at me! Just grieve for me!” Yet, they won’t let up on their relentless assault, trying to get Job to confess to some kind of wrong doing. Here the friends commit the worst offense of all. They sin against charity. Because they are so convinced that they’re right and Job is wrong, they won’t let themselves empathize with his downfall.

 Does all of this sound familiar? It should.

These are the exact same qualities we see in the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They are unwilling to recognize the authenticity of Jesus or John the Baptist because it offends their own self righteousness. To admit that Jesus is right would have to also mean admitting they are wrong. The pietistic practices they do are nothing more than lip service and little deeds to placate or pacify God. They’re not interested in forming any kind of real relationship with God. Finally, they are void of charity or pity. We see this numerous times. Their using of the adulterous woman to try and trap Jesus. Their scorning of Jesus healing people on the Sabbath Day. And even though they know they’ve set Jesus up in a kangaroo court, they don’t even have the pity not to mock him as He’s dying on the cross.

So in some ways Job is a prefiguring of Christ, and Job’s friends are a prefiguring of the persecutions that Christ would endure. For our part, my brothers and sisters, our place is not to judge others or say, “You’re being punished by God.” Rather, our part is to point the way to God through word and deed, always tempered by charity, and always for the goal of having a deeper relationship with him.

 And blessed be God forever.

-- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: The tempter, ever on the lookout, wages war most violently against those whom he sees most careful to avoid sin.  --- Pope St. Leo the Great

Prayer: "O Lord. I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.


Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.


Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.


Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.


Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness (...)
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. (...)

May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me" (St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary # 163)

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Do a quick skim through of the Book of Job before beginning to discuss these questions. Pay particular attention to the beginning and ending chapters. What conclusions can you draw from your quick go through of this book of Scripture?

  2. Did you ever think God was punishing you or someone else? What were the circumstances? What caused you to think this way? Do you think that God is punishing people if they are in difficult situations?

  3. What does the Book of Job say about why God was punishing Job?

  4. Does God ever tell Job why he had so many trials and losses? What does this tell us about how God acts?

  5. Discuss the quote from St. Leo the Great. How can we avoid temptation when it comes?

  6. Pray St. Faustina’s prayer. What specific “Help me” request resonated especially with you? Why?

  7. What do you say or do when someone you know is suffering? What are other helpful responses?

  8. What are some unhelpful responses when someone is suffering?

  9. Job’s friends meant well. Discuss a few things they did that showed real charity.

  10. Job’s friends fell short of the mark in really comforting Job. Discuss a few ways they missed the mark.

  11. What responses would be helpful to you if you were suffering? What would be unhelpful?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 315: Two Misconceptions about God: A Reflection on 1 Kings 18:41

Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41) 

 

I think that we are always in danger of falling into a couple misconceptions about God.

 

First, we always speak of how great the forgiveness and compassion of the Lord are, but I don’t really think we understand the depth of that compassion and forgiveness. Honestly, I don’t think we ever will understand the depth of God’s forgiveness and compassion until we get to the after life.

 

Secondly, we always seem to think that Jesus is the God of all forgiveness and compassion, and Yahweh, God of the Old Testament, is a tyrannical ogre. Therefore, we reason that the New Testament is a 180 degree turn from the Old Testament.

 

That second misconception is what concerns me the most. The first misconception, about not being able to fully understand the depth of God’s forgiveness and compassion, is part of the mystery of God’s holiness, so being a mystery, it’s something we’ll never truly grasp 100%. But this misconception that the Old and New Testaments contradict one another is another matter.

 

First, let me remind you that if you count the Scripture passages, you’ll find that Jesus talked more about hell than he did about heaven. Not many people realize that. Jesus was not the “hippie luv” God that many people paint him out to be.

 

Secondly in the Old Testament we see God time and again exercising great mercy, and putting up with all kinds of frustrations as he tries to form this covenant nation. What happens in the reading quoted above is a good example of this. God has inflicted a drought on the northern kingdom of Israel because of her idolatry. God is punishing Ahab, the king of Israel, and the people along with him, because he reinstated the worship of false gods and all the people followed him.

 

Ahab was THE worst king in Israel’s history. And he’s not even the true king. The true king, the king who followed the succession of the line of David, was king Jehosaphat, of the southern kingdom of Judah. Jehosophat is the rightful king of both kingdoms but a civil war, that started under Jehosophat’s grandfather Reheboam, divided the country.

 

God has every right to wipe Ahab and the northern kingdom out, but He doesn’t. Instead God tries to sway them back. First, God sends Elijah to try to sway Ahab and the people. Doesn’t work. Then God sends this drought, predicted by Elijah. God hopes that, if the people see his power and dominion, they will return to their covenant with him. The drought is a forced fast! There’s no rain so crops are scanty and people have little to nothing to eat. What happens? In the third year of the drought, Elijah challenges the prophets of the false god Baal to a prayer contest, so to speak. Their prayers went unheard, of course, but God heard Elijah’s public and proclaimed prayer and sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice. Once Elijah slew all the false prophets, he tells Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.’” Why eat and drink? Because the time of fasting is over. The terrible drought is ended. God is ready to show his mercy. When we need to do penance, we fast. When we celebrate, we feast.

 

However, the ending of the drought doesn’t work to bring the people back to God. The northern kingdom will persist in its stubbornness and not turn to the Lord, and that will be their destruction.

 

And this country we live in, as well as any country, will suffer the same fate if it embraces idolatry. We are living in a new age of atheism, agnosticism and hedonism. There is no logical reason for it other than this: people just want license to do anything they want, whenever they want, however they want. In short, we’re living in a new age of idolatry.

 

And yet, God’s mercy can still prevail, but it’s going to take two things. First, God forced a fast on the northern kingdom. I really think that we need voluntarily to embrace fasting more, (I am speaking to myself first of all). Jesus said some demons can only be driven away through prayer and fasting. I’ve committed myself to fasting at least once a week.

 

The second thing is prayer which shows its sincerity through forgiveness. If we want God’s forgiveness for our sins, we must be willing to forgive others. No grudges. No payback. We want God to give us good; we need to want to give good to others. God’s mercy is boundless, and so we must be merciful, also.

 

Using these two tools of fasting and forgiveness, along with prayer, we can change the course of our nation and our world.

 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

 

Don’t you know that fasting can master concupiscence, lift up the soul, confirm it in the paths of virtue, and prepare a fine reward for the Christian? – St. Hedwig of Silesia

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I pray with me for all the people who do not know You. O Lord, remove from their lives all the crutches they've been leaning on when they should be turning to You. When people reach their bottom, help them to see that they have nowhere else to turn, so that they look upwards to You and realize it's You they need. Send angels and people into their lives who will deliver them into Your arms. Saint Alban, patron saint of converts, pray for us. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Do you fast for the conversion of sinners? Do you pray for this intention? Do you need to do more in the area of fasting and prayer? How can you make a small step forward?

  2. Why does Fr. Sisco link fasting with forgiveness? Why is forgiveness critical to spiritual growth?

  3. Who do you need to forgive? Why? How can you begin to forgive?

  4. Can you think of a way to describe the forgiveness of God?

  5. Can you think of a way to describe the compassion of God?

  6. How can you explain to someone that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God? When people try to distinguish between the God of the Old and New Testament, what do you think they might really be thinking?

  7. Fr. Sisco mentions that Christ discussed hell and the Old Testament shows God’s mercy. Can you give examples of both of these in Scripture?

  8. Do you see any signs that God is exercising mercy today? What are they?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 316: Testing Our Faith: A Reflection on Matthew 9: 1-8 

 

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”— he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9: 1-8)

 

God asks us: “What did you do with my son Jesus? And what did you do with the gifts I gave you?”

 

These are the two questions which our faith most frequently confront us with, and those are the two questions God will ask us at our judgment, because how we respond to them requires faith.

 

The Gospel passage about Jesus curing the paralyzed man is familiar, but it also is often greatly misunderstood. This whole story is an example of God testing faith on three levels. We all know the story. A paralytic is brought to Jesus by his friends. In Luke’s gospel, Luke adds the detail of the friends having to open the roof and lower the paralytic down through the opening because of the crowd.

 

The first thing to note is that this miracle occurs because of the faith of the friends, not the faith of the paralytic. Both Gospels say, when Jesus saw their faith. Plural. Whose faith? The friends. They make this miracle possible. And in Luke’s version, theirs is the first faith tested, because they can’t get to Jesus easily, but they don’t give up.

 

This is valuable on two levels. It shows us the value of persistent prayer. Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayers right away. Why? He’s testing faith. God isn’t sadistic. He doesn’t play games with us, but he wants us draw us to an experience of trusting him. That takes persistence.

 

The second thing the friends show us is the value of intercessory prayer. We should pray for others because our prayers can affect the lives of others.

 

Third, the faith of the paralytic is tested. Because when Jesus sees him, what does he say? “Your sins are forgiven.” Can you imagine what his reaction to that was? ‘Oh, wonderful! These guys told me this Rabbi could cure me. They carry me through several villages in the heat, and lower me through a roof so this guy can say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.”’ Little does he realize that Jesus is going to heal him, but he’s already received a much better gift. The spiritual healing precedes the physical one.

 

Fourth, the faith of the Pharisees is tested by their reaction to Jesus’ statement. When Jesus says “Your sins are forgiven,” their first reaction is, “Blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” And they’re right. Only God can forgive sins. And note this: they don’t say it; they just think it, and, had I been in their position, I probably would have thought the same thing.

 

You see, Jesus wants to heal this man, but even more important than that, Jesus wants his people to understand who He is. Jesus can heal everyone of every infirmity, but they still must die someday. But if He can increase their faith, if He can draw them into an understanding of who He is, He can save them from eternal death. So Jesus sets up this opportunity to demonstrate that He’s more than a rabbi, more than a healer, more than even a prophet.

 

And He answers them, “To help you realize that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the crippled man —“Stand up, pick up your mat and go home.”

 

Why is this significant? When Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man, he’s not referring to his humanity. He’s referring to his divinity! In the book of the prophet Daniel, which Jesus draws heavily from, the Son of Man is the one who rides the clouds alongside of the Ancient of Days, (an Old Testament reference to God the Father) and who is given the authority of the Ancient of Days. Jesus says this so that the Pharisees cannot misinterpret who Jesus is claiming to be. But before they can really charge him with blasphemy, He heals the paralytic. Why? Because no one can do that unless God is with Him. Right?

 

What about us? God is testing us all the time. In his book “The Purpose Driven Life,” Reverend Rick Warren claims that God tests our faith through problems. He tests our hope by how we handle possessions. He tests our love through how we deal with people.

 

What did you do with my Son Jesus Christ? What did you do with the gifts I gave you? These are the questions faith asks us every day. How we answer them will dictate our actions in this life, and they are the questions God will ask us at our judgment when we die. How we answer the first question will determine where we spend eternity. How we answer the second will determine how we spend eternity.

 

So what does your faith tell you? Think about it.

 

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: All things are possible for him who believes, more to him who hopes, even more to him who loves. – St. Augustine of Hippo

 

Prayer: Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Pretend that you are the paralyzed man. What possible reactions might this man have to being brought to Jesus for cure?

  2. Pretend that you are the man’s friends. What possible reasons might you have for bringing your friend to Jesus for healing?

  3. Pretend that you are a member of the crowd. What feelings might you have when you see the roof tiles removed and the paralyzed man lowered?

  4. Discuss: God tests our faith through problems.

  5. Discuss: He tests our hope by how we handle possessions.

  6. Discuss: He test our love through how we deal with people.

  7. Do you practice intercessory prayer (prayer for the needs of others and of yourself as well)? Do you write down your prayer intentions? Are you part of an Intercessory Prayer Group?

  8. Discuss why Jesus healed the man spiritually by forgiving his sins, before healing him physically.

  9. Why do you think Son of Man was a divine title?

  10. Why is it important for us to recognize and proclaim that Jesus forgives sins?

  11. Do you feel that our society has lost its sense of sin? Is there any way to bring back virtue? What do people recognize as sin today? What is sin that is accepted by the world but is against God’s laws? What can we do to heighten awareness?

  12. So what does your faith tell you?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 317: Jesus the High Priest of a New Covenant: A Reflection on Hebrews 8:6

“Brothers and sisters, now our high priest has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises. For if the first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one.” (Hebrews 8:6)

What is the author to the letter of the Hebrews telling us in this first reading? Very simply, Jesus is offering us a better relationship with the Father than we had before. Unlike Judaism, which preceded Christianity, we are not just God’s chosen people. Unlike Islam, which came after Christianity, we are not God’s servants. Because of the new covenant, we are part of God’s family. Now that’s said so often that it becomes a cliché. And most Christians THINK that statement is analogy. Most Christians THINK we believe that we are LIKE a family with God. NO!

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are actually blood relatives of God now. It is more accurate to say that our biological families are an analogy to the relationship we now have with God. How can I say that?

What is the one common denominator found in all families? They share blood! A man and a woman have sexual relations. In that act, they share blood, they share body fluid. From that act come children who are formed from the building blocks of that physical exchange. Children share the biological material, the blood, of both their parents. Families share blood.

The eternal God is a pure spirit, unable to help us because we had alienated ourselves from Him through sin. He can’t excuse us, because, being God, His perfect justice demands atonement, but also being God, His perfect love cannot abandon or destroy us. Therefore, He must somehow help us.

Thus, the eternal God becomes a mortal man. He doesn’t disguise Himself as a man. He actually is born in time and space and becomes a member of the human race.

Why? So He can use his power as God to give us His flesh and blood in the sacraments, primarily the Eucharist. So He can share blood with us and make us family. And secondly, He can use His power as God to take His human flesh and sacrifice it on the cross to atone for all the sins of creation to satisfy His own perfect justice and to remove the barrier that was keeping us from Him.

Therefore, we really, are in fact, family to God. He fulfilled the requirements to make us His relatives -- sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters to Christ. The question is, why would anyone willingly reject this relationship? Why would someone leave the Catholic Church which has Christ in all the sacraments, to join a Protestant church that only has Christ in some sacraments? Or, join the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, Scientology, or an Eastern religion like Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam, that have NO sacraments?

People say, “Well, the liturgies in that other Church are more fun.” God didn’t become man to entertain you. Others say, “Well, I left the Catholic Church because it has too many rules.” All the rules of the Church lead us to three simple ends; respect the sacredness of God, respect the sacredness in ourselves, and respect the sacredness of others.

I challenge anyone to find me a rule that does NOT lead to one of those ends. People leave the Church because they don’t understand this Eucharistic theology that I just explained or they don’t believe it. And that’s tragic.

This is the message that needs to be proclaimed again and again. In the sacraments, we are offered not to be servants of God, or chosen of God, but to actually be family of God, sharing blood, and so also sharing eternity.

And blessed be God forever.

Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote:

"If we could comprehend all the good things contained in Holy Communion, nothing more would be wanting to content the heart of man. The miser would run no more after his treasures, or the ambitious after glory; each would shake off the dust of the earth, leave the world, and fly away towards heaven." -- St. John Vianney

 

Prayer:

Divine Savior, we come to Your sacred table to nourish ourselves, not with bread but with Yourself, true Bread of eternal life. Help us daily to make a good and perfect meal of this divine food. Let us be continually refreshed by the perfume of Your kindness and goodness. May the Holy Spirit fill us with His Love. Meanwhile, let us prepare a place for this holy food by emptying our hearts. Amen. -St. Francis de Sales

Questions for Discussion

  1. The Church teaches that we receive sanctifying grace during Communion according to our disposition to receive. Many people take Communion regularly, even frequently with no apparent change. Why do you suppose that is?

  2. Why do you believe the Lord chose bread to stand in for His Body, and wine for His blood? In the context of the Sacrament, what does bread represent? What does wine represent?

  3. How does a covenant differ from promise, pledge, contract? Does it carry more weight than these? Are there more positive rewards to keeping a covenant? Are there more serious consequences to breaking one? Can you name a common relationship, outside of religion, that can involve an covenantal relationship? What is special about it?

  4. What characteristics do you believe Jesus would be pleased to see in a soul that was optimally disposed to receive Him? What characteristics would He be displeased to see? What obstacles to grace could be present?

  5. Christians are called to be transformed in Christ. What change would you expect to see in a person so transformed? Would they treat others differently? How so? Would they react differently to difficulties? How so?

  6. Have you known or heard of anyone who has had a radical conversion to Christ, particularly to the Catholic Church? Can you describe the change in their behavior? What about physical characteristics?

  7. Name one or two changes you could make to prepare yourself for the reception of Communion. What changes would you expect to happen in the life of a person who was completely devoted to God?

  8. Do you consider yourself a child of God? What behaviors would you change if you knew that you were a part of God’s household? What do you think He would ask you to change?

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 318: Jericho: Where God Makes the Impossible, Possible: A Reflection on Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10: 46-52)

This Gospel story is one we’ve heard a million times if we’ve heard it once--Jesus curing the blind beggar Bartimaeus. I’ve preached on this Gospel many times before. But a detail struck me about this Gospel that I never noticed before…Jesus’ location. 

“As Jesus was leaving Jericho…”  Now what significance could that have? Maybe none at all, but I for one believe that no detail is in Scripture by accident. Even if the human author of Scripture, in this case Saint Mark, didn’t mean anything by that detail, I believe the Divine author, the Holy Spirit, did. So, what significance could Jericho have on this miracle?  

OK, what was Jericho? Jericho was an ancient, Canaanite, fortified city near the Jordan River. 

OK. This is a city that borders on the desert. This city is close to the Jordan River, significant, not only because it has an unlimited water supply, but also water is a symbol of life, and even more significantly, the JORDAN River is the place where John the Baptist is baptizing, so it is a symbol of spiritual life, repentance of sin, and healing. 

This is a city that’s bordering on the desert, a symbolic place of death, and also a symbolic place of purification, and the Jordon River, a symbolic place of life and renewal. 

Also, this city has an important history for Israel. Jericho was originally a pagan, Canaanite, fortified city. We hear of Jericho in the book of Joshua. After Moses died and Joshua led the Jews out of the desert into the promised land, the first city they came to was Jericho. 

Of all the fortified cities in the land of Canaan, Jericho was the toughest. They had the most soldiers and the heaviest fortifications. And yet, the Jews conquer it with relative ease. How?  

A religious procession. 

Joshua orders the priests to process in a circle around the city carrying the Ark of the Covenant, while the Levites blow rams’ horns in front of the Ark, and the people all walk in procession behind. They process around the city seven times for seven days. On the seventh day, however,  they only process around once, and the Levites let out one long blast from the trumpets and the mighty walls of Jericho come crashing down, leaving the city defenseless. 

The weapons that won that battle were liturgical weapons--the priests, the Levites, the Ark, the rams’ horn trumpets--these were all people and things that were used in their liturgical celebrations. In the book of Revelation, we see these things again used in the heavenly liturgy. 

Jericho was the place where God made the impossible, possible. Jericho was the place where God proved to the peoples of Canaan that, with the faith of his people, he could overcome any human obstacles.  

In the same way, Jesus cured Bartimeaus of his human obstacle, his blindness, because of his faith outside Jericho. Jesus was trying to knock down the walls of the hardened hearts of the crowd, who were trying to intimidate and silence this man, and keep him from asking for help.  Jesus continues to try to knock down the walls of our hearts even now, by getting us to see the value in everyone around us. 

May we be like Bartimeaus so that Christ may be able to say to all of us “Your faith has healed you.”  And blessed be God forever. -- Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: I know well that the greater and more beautiful the work is, the more terrible will be the storms that rage against it. -St. Faustina

Prayer: Give us strength to persevere and overcome the obstacles in our lives, whether it is of You, to make us stronger or of the evil one who tries to knock us down. Despite it all, satan’s evil works will not prevail, for the battle is already won and we shall overcome, just as You overcame the world.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What is the difference between spiritual blindness and physical blindness? What are the similarities between the two?

  2. Commentators on this passage explain that beggars wore a certain type of cloak to show that they were in legitimate need of alms. When Bartimeus threw off his cloak to approach Christ, he did so because he fully believed that Christ would heal him and then he would not have to beg any longer. Ponder this and discuss the implications of Bartimeus’ action.

  3. In light of number 2 above, do you have the same faith as Bartimeus, to follow Christ and leave all behind when He calls?

  4.  Discuss the symbolic implications in Bartimeus being in Jericho and receiving healing in that location.

  5. Consider your own location. Why are you here? Might God have reasons for you being in this location? What might these be? How is God working in this location? How is He working through you in this location?

  6. Discuss the quote by Saint Faustina.

  7. What obstacles are you facing? How have you dealt with them? How might God want you to deal with them? Have you given these over to God?

  8. Pray the prayer and discuss the quote from John 16:33. Do you believe that God will overcome the obstacles in your life? Why do you feel this way?

  9. Why were the bystanders trying to quiet Bartimeus? Think of all the possible reasons and write them down. Then discuss each one. Do we ever try to silence someone who is seeking Jesus? Do we ever try to silence someone who is seeking us who should be the face of Christ to them? When we hear people in need, what is our response? What should our response be?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 319: Cut It Off!:  A Reflection on Mark 9:42 – 48

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. (Mk 9:42-48)

I grew up in the 1970’s, in the happy happy, joy joy, sloppy, kissy, warm, fuzzy, feel good Jesus. I grew up in a very confusing time in our Church’s history. One year in Religious Ed, we were taught do A, B, and C, but you never do X,Y, or Z or you’re going to hell, straight to hell with no questions asked! The very next year we were taught, ‘There is no hell, there is no devil. We all go heaven. Hitler’s in heaven.’ Happy happy, joy, joy.

So, it really doesn’t surprise me why so many of my old classmates, friends and cousins don’t go to Church anymore, or have converted to other religions. Thank heaven, catechesis has improved dramatically over the past thirty years. Unfortunately, though, many from my generation advanced in every other aspect of their lives, but are still theologically stuck in the seventies. They challenge me with statements like “Jesus loves! He wouldn’t condemn anyone to hell! Jesus never talked about hell! Sin doesn’t matter! I don’t need confession because Jesus will forgive me in the end.”

Then I recite this gospel. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Better to live without a hand than to have the whole of you self burn in the fires of Gehenna. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Better to live without a foot than to have the whole of yourself burn in the fires of Gehenna.”

Now Jesus isn’t being literal here. He’s not talking about self-mutilation. Jesus is using hyperbole, gross exaggeration, to make a point. Jesus is talking about radically separating ourselves from sin, like God radically separates himself from sin. Look at the imagery Jesus uses. It’s drastic. It’s violent. Jesus wants no one to misinterpret what he’s saying. We’ve got to radically cut sin off from our lives. Because if we do not radically separate ourselves from sin in this life, we’ll be radically separated from God in the next.

Also note what Jesus says. “If your hand causes you to sin...” Jesus isn’t just talking about sin itself. Jesus is also talking about what leads us to sin--the near occasion of sin. Custody of the eyes as it was called. So, if television, or the internet, causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! If a certain person or group of people cause you to sin, cut them off and throw them away! If certain memories cause you to sin, cut them off and throw them away. The knife we use to cut these sins off, is the confessional.

The sacrament of penance in an enormous source of grace that we need to separate from sin. Many of us have repeat sins, our favorite sins, our habitual sins, and we’re ashamed to keep confessing them. Don’t be! That’s precisely why Jesus gave us this sacrament. Sin is addictive. Sin is habit forming.

“Well, I don’t need to go to confession because I only commit venial sins.” Really?  So instead of being hurled in the sea, bound to a single thousand-pound millstone, you’d rather be hurled in the sea, bound to a thousand one-pound millstones?

Don’t take venial sins lightly because they weaken our souls to be more prone to the more serious sins. Confess them, too! What have you got to lose? So, let’s make a commitment to get back to confession, and get the all the Grace we can, because no matter how you slice it, millstones make lousy swimming gear.

-Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint:

'We should all realize that no matter where or how a man dies, if he is in the state of mortal sin and does not repent, when he could have done so and did not, the Devil tears his soul from his body with such anguish and distress that only a person who has experienced it can appreciate it.' -- St. Francis of Assisi

Prayer:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. -Act of Contrition

Questions for Reflection:

1. Jesus Christ, through His love and mercy for sinners, established the Sacrament of Penance, so that we can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconciliation with God and the Church. How often do you participate in this sacrament? Do you feel that it would be beneficial for you to participate more frequently? Why or why not?

2. Scripture teaches that it is better for a millstone to be placed around one's neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause another person to sin. Father continues with this imagery in describing the effects of venial sins. To what does he compare them to?

3. Mortal sins cause a spiritual "death of the soul". They separate us from God, and, if left unconfessed, can lead to an eternal separation from God. According to Father, venial sins also should not be taken lightly. Why is this? What are the effects of venial sins on one's soul? Do you make it a practice to confess your venial sins as well as mortal sins?

4. Are there areas in your life in which you habitually sin? Why do you think this is so?

5. We are taught to "avoid the near occasion of sin". What does this mean? How might you go about fulfilling this directive in your life?

6. If you have children, how might you help them to understand sin and its consequences? Spend a few minutes discussing this and sharing ideas if you are working with a group.  

7. Spend a few minutes reading and meditating on the quote by St. Francis of Assisi. He makes no bones about the ultimate effects of unconfessed mortal sin. Scripture is also quite explicit about it. Why do you believe this is so?

8. A helpful daily practice is to make an "examination of conscience" in the evening before retiring. If you do not already do this, is it something you might consider doing?

--Kimberly Lohman, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 320: Priorities: A Reflection on Isaiah 54:1 

“Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear, break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor, for more numerous are the children of the deserted wife than the children of her who has a husband.” (Isaiah 54:1) 

There are nine choirs of angels. The Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, begins at sunset on the 9th day of the 7th Hebrew month. Christ died at the 9th hour of the day, or 3 p.m. There were nine days between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. At the 9th hour of the day, the Roman Centurion Cornelius was told, in a vision, to contact the apostle Peter. Peter would evangelize and baptize Cornelius and his household, making them the first Gentile converts to Christianity. There are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit:  Faithfulness, Gentleness, Goodness, Joy, Kindness, Long suffering, Love, Peace and Self-control. There are nine days of prayer in a novena.

What’s significant about the number nine? Nine is completeness. Three sets of three. Starting on December 17, there are nine days before Christmas. The Mass readings on those nine days before Christmas get more intense. The joyful expectation becomes more apparent. Nine days before Christmas, beginning December 17, we start a new stage of preparation for Christmas. And it’s important to reflect on this, whether or not we are in the Christmas season.

What were the two single most prominent causes for joyful expectation in the ancient world?

Getting married, and having a baby.

This was what life revolved around in ancient Israel--the family. People cared about jobs back then, just like they do today. People cared about politics back then just like they do today. People cared about success, status, and wealth back then, just like they do today. But they only cared about those things insofar as they cared about their families, because those things affected their families!

Sadly, today many people don’t care about those things because they care about their families. Instead they care about those things to the sacrifice of their families. Instead of getting married, we’ll just live together. We’ll vote for the pro-abortion politician, because he’s good for the economy. We’ve decided we’re not ready to have children. (Funny, you decided were ready to start having sex!) Translate what they’re saying; I’m not ready to give up my career, or I’m not ready to make the financial sacrifice of having children. That says it all. Where are our priorities? Not where they should be.

In ancient Israel, the world revolved around getting married and having children. Consequently, what were the two primary reasons for grieving in ancient Israel? To be a widow or to be childless. In fact, childless couples were thought to be cursed by God.

To encourage the people that better days are ahead, to remind people that the Messiah is coming, what images does the prophet Isaiah use? He uses marriage and children. If you have no children, if you’ve been barren, “Rejoice,” because God is coming to make us his children. If you have no husband, if you’ve been widowed, “Rejoice” because God himself is coming to be our husband.

Why does Isaiah use this imagery? Because marriage is a union that gives life. In marriage, two people give themselves completely to each other and from that union come children. From that union comes life. We rejoice, because through the incarnation at Christmas and the cross at Calvary, God gave himself completely to us, and from that union of the God made man, we became children. We were given life.

The Christmas season reminds us of this. The Easter season reminds us of this. Every day of the year, we should remember this. We should live joyfully expectant of a later day. Just as God kept His promise to come as Messiah to save us, just as He kept His promise to redeem us, so He will keep his promise to return again to conquer the darkness once and for all and to take us home to His kingdom. That’s a good reason to rejoice every day of the year. And that’s a good reason to take a long, hard look at our priorities. Are we putting God first so we are ready when He comes for us? We can’t take our career or our finances with us into eternity.

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint:

 

To those who seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, He promises all things shall be added. For since God possesses all things, those who possess God will lack nothing if they do not lack God Himself.

 

-- Saint Cyprian of Carthage

Prayer:

 

O Possession which contains all things within yourself, truly blessed is the person who has you, truly happy whoever possesses you because he then owns that goodness which alone can make the human mind completely happy! But, dear God, what can I give to come to possess you? If I give away everything, do you think that I will have you in exchange? You are much higher than the highest heavens, deeper than the deepest abyss, longer than the longest distance, wider than the widest ocean. How, then, can I, a worm, a dead dog, a tiny flea, a son of man, come to possess you? Job rightly says, when he speaks of divine wisdom: “it cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of  fine gold . . . The price of wisdom as above pearls” (28:15-18). O Lord God, I do not have these riches; what, then, can I give to possess you? I already know your answer: “Give me yourself and I will give you myself. Give me your mind and you will have me in your mind. Keep all your possessions, but only give me your soul. I have heard enough of your words; I do not need your works; only give me yourself, forever.” 

 

-- St. Anthony of Padua

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Can you think of any other instances popularly used which involve numbers? What might these numbers mean in these truisms?

  2. Since the Jewish people believed in the significance of the number nine, discuss the main events in Jesus’ life that involve this number.

  3. How have people’s priorities changed in modern times? Can you see good and bad points to this?

  4. God keeps his promises. How have you seen this in your life?

  5. List some good Catholic responses to the remark, “we’re not ready to start a family.”

  6. Discuss how priorities, following our Lord’s teachings, need to be put in place in political elections. How does one choose between candidates who are morally sound on some principles and not on others?

  7. Does God deal with us when we are ready or when He is ready?   

  8. Discuss the quote from St. Cyprian of Carthage.

  9. Read and reflect on the prayer from St. Anthony. What strikes you most strongly about this prayer and why?

  10. How do both the Christmas and Easter seasons reflect marriage? Did you see the connection before this Oratory reflection?     

  11. Are your priorities in correct order? List the things you care about and number them in order of their importance to you. You can tell what’s more important to you by what you think of first when you are simply relaxed. Do you need to pray about reordering your priorities?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Oratory of Divine Love Weekly Bible Study, c/o Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA  OratoryDivineLove@gmail.com   260-739-6882